It's a vegetable in the kitchen, but in botany class, it's a fruit , it starts with a ``Z," and in Ludlow, Vt., it's as prolific as the rabbits, which may be why the town spends two days each year lampooning this most ridiculed member of the squash family.
Local gardeners enter homegrown zingers for the title of Vermont's Largest Zucchini. Last year the winner weighed in at 13 pounds; in 2004, Ludlow horticulturist Tom Potvin's 29-inch behemoth snagged the $100 purse.
With games, music, rides, and a heightened silliness quotient, the festival is a hit with the younger set. There's a zuke ring toss, a Knock Out the Zucchini ball throw, a zuke model car race and a model airplane contest, a carving competition, and for the wee ones, the Duke of Zuke coloring contest. Some festival goers head for the jewelry and hand-knit apparel at the craft fair, while others flock to the zukapult competition, in which contestants compete in launching green loads from improvised launchers.
If that's not zukes enough, a bakery transforms the courgettes into muffins, cupcakes, and mini-breads for snacking on at lunch and dinner.
``We sell 100 pounds of zuke french fries each year," said Ed Eagan, the ``Z-Fest's" organizer and chamber of commerce director. ``The kids love it."
Tenth annual Vermont State Zucchini Festival, Veteran's Memorial Park, Ludlow, Vt. Aug. 19-20, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Free. 802-228-5830. www.okemovalleyvt.org/news/Zucchini.html. Ludlow is 135 miles or about four hours from Boston. Take Interstate 90 (Mass. Turnpike) west to exit 4 and Interstate 91. Go north on I-91 to exit 6, then take Route 103 north about 20 miles past Chester to Ludlow . The park, with its gazebo, is on 103 in the center of town.